by Michael Smith
Associate Professor of Political Science/Emporia State University
Special to Insight Kansas
Apparently, the entire state of Kansas can be redistricted in only five minutes.
A brief background: the Kansas Legislature is currently redrawing the lines of the state’s four Congressional districts, which must be equal in population. The current “Big 1st” in western and central Kansas needs to gain more people, the KC-area 3rd needs to shed people, and the 2nd district is stuck in between them. The obvious solution is to shift the 2nd eastward, gaining eastern Lawrence and Eudora from the 3rd while losing Manhattan to the 1st. However, there is intense political pressure to keep Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth together in the 2nd. Finally, the Wichita-area 4th may see the least change.
For our redistricting contest, we invited readers to draw proposed maps using a free software program called Dave’s Redistricting. Five readers entered the contest, and three submitted more than one map. Columnist Chapman Rackaway and I judged. The criteria, taken from California’s Voters First Act, required districts to be compact and contiguous, represent minorities fairly, keep communities of interest together whenever possible, and be drawn without regard to any incumbent or political party.
Mr. Danish claims that he drew his “Clean Lines” map in only five minutes. Yet, he managed to produce a map with compact, contiguous districts. His map keeps communities of interest together and features very low variation in population between districts. He even managed to put Hutchinson together with the rest of the Wichita area in the 4th district (though Independence moved to the 2nd). Danish moved all of Lawrence, currently split, into the 2nd district. To rebalance the 3rd’s population, he added a few precincts of southern Leavenworth County (but not the city of Leavenworth or any of the military facilities there). Danish’s proposal does move Manhattan and Ft. Riley into the Big 1st. However, this has the advantage of putting Manhattan and Junction City together, unlike the current districts.
Shafer’s districts are also clean, contiguous, and compact. Furthermore, they respect communities of interest. Like Danish, Shafer moved Manhattan into the Big 1st. The 4th did not gain Hutchinson, but it did retain Independence. All of Lawrence is placed in the 2nd district. Shafer chose to take the 3rd south into growing, northern Miami County. Amazingly, his map splits only two counties in the entire state!
Honorable Mentions: go to insightkansas.wordpress.com to see all of the maps. Steven Pratt and H. David Goering each submitted maps that keep Manhattan/Ft. Riley in the 2nd. Additional maps submitted by Danish and late entrant James Hamilton do so as well. Keeping Manhattan in the 2nd requires either splitting up the KC area, or created an ungainly Big 1st district that “wraps around” the 2nd and 4th districts. Some even took the 1st from Colorado to Missouri!
Pratt, Hamilton and Danish each proposed a “minority representation” district, cutting a swath along I-70 through urban, northeastern Kansas. Hamilton also submitted a map featuring variations on the current districts.
Will the results of this contest affect actual redistricting this year? We figured it couldn’t hurt to try, so a multimedia presentation of all of our entrants’ maps is on the way to the chairs of the state’s House and Senate redistricting committees right now. While Kansas does not have a nonpartisan redistricting commission like Iowa or California, Kansans can still draw the lines!